Comcast blindsides Caps' fans

ON THE AIR

September 30, 1994|By MILTON KENT

The Zambonis are gassed up, the pucks are frozen and if the players and the NHL can just put aside their differences and be one with each other, the Washington Capitals will meet Toronto at Maple Leaf Gardens in the season opener on Channel 20 tomorrow night.

That piece of news is significant to all of the area's hockey fans, except for those among the 175,000 Comcast subscribers in Baltimore County, for whom Channel 20, Washington's WDCA, is but a fond memory, since the station was removed from the system this summer for Turner Classic Movies, a pay channel that features uncut feature films.

And no one is more upset about it than Dick Williams, WDCA's general manager.

"That's the second-largest cable system that carries our signal," said Williams. "The sports fans in Baltimore are the big losers. I feel really bad that the people there won't get a chance to see our coverage."

And so are we, especially because it appears that, contrary to what was reported here a few weeks ago, the Channel 20 signal, which also carries Washington Bullets road games, probably won't return to the Comcast lineup during the season.

That is, if a letter to Williams from Stephen Burch, Comcast's senior vice president for the Mid-Atlantic region, is correct.

Burch told Williams in June that channel capacity expansion for the system would begin during the final quarter of this year and continue into 1996. And though Burch said he would be interested in talking about the matter, Williams said he hadn't received a reply to a certified letter he mailed a week before Channel 20 was yanked.

Burch was unavailable for comment, but David Nevins, a Comcast spokesman, reiterated the system's position that Channel 20's programming schedule, save for the Caps and Bullets, could be found elsewhere in the Comcast lineup.

Nevins said Comcast had explored the possibility of sharing 20's schedule with another channel, but found it couldn't. He left open the possibility that Channel 20 will return to the lineup someday, but there was no indication when.

In the meantime, Baltimore County viewers can continue to get their Bullets/Caps fix on Home Team Sports, which comes at an additional charge. And Williams sits in his Bethesda office with a product that he thinks people would be interested in watching, if they only could see it.

"Viewers out there, the paying customers, can say, 'Lookit, I want my Caps and I want my Bullets and I want it where I had it in the past and that's on Paramount Channel 20," said Williams.

Family feud

Sunday night's TNT Miami-Cincinnati matchup showcases the duel between Dolphins coach Don Shula and his son, David, the head man of the Bengals, marking the first time in NFL history that father and progeny have clashed as coaches.

An interesting sidelight for all you short-term investors (and you know who you are): Through the first four weeks of Sunday night football, the road team has captured each game. Let the rush to the Miami window begin.

Million-dollar coverage

Speaking of short-term investing, tomorrow's Maryland Million from Laurel Race Course will get mondo play across the dial.

It all begins with ESPN's "Road to the Breeders' Cup" show at 3:30, which will carry the BWI Airport Sprint Handicap, followed by two hours of exposure from HTS at 4 p.m. with live coverage of races 8-11, anchored by Mel Proctor, with help from Art Sinclair, Gregg McCarron and Kim Goodwin.

Finally, ESPN2, which, by the way, celebrates its first anniversary tomorrow, will have two races, the USAir Maryland Ladies and the First National Bank of Maryland Classic on its "Best Seven" show at 5 p.m.

There's no truth to the rumor that "Talk2" host Jim Rome will be a celebrity hotwalker.

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